About a month and a half ago I came across a great article in the Chicago Tribune “Online with your Doctor” which discussed a lot of the issues facing medicine with regards to the difficulties the profession has had integrating the internet into private practices. A few themes emerged, that I think are important:
- Patients want their docs to have a website
- Patient privacy is paramount
- Creating a website is hard and expensive
It would seem that issues two and three are so burdensome that they have made it seemingly impossible for medicine to embrace the internet in the same ways that say the travel, retail, food, banking, entertainment, or really every other industry that affects our daily lives have. This is why the healthcare industry needs a strong dose of creativity and reality in order to overcome their resistance to the internet. Before I touch on such a creative alternative, let me elaborate on the themes mentioned above.
Patients want their docs to have a website. The general population is use to being able to learn everything about a person, place or thing with a simple Google search. Why wouldn’t patients want to know more about their doctor’s credentials and training? Honestly, why wouldn’t doctors want to have this information easily accessible anyway? You walk into any doctor’s office and all of the degrees are posted prominently, might as well have a website that discloses the same information. And who wouldn’t want to have easy access to patient registration forms, insurance forms etc so that they could be filled out prior to an appointment? This is a win-win situation and it would seem the response would be an exponential increase in doctor’s embracing the internet with their own websites. However, the medical community has been very good at using the following excuse to slow progress:
Patient privacy is paramount. I whole-heartedly agree, your health is between you and your doctor and the internet will not change that. I would argue as a society we are much more concerned with financial privacy than patient privacy. We have a lot more to lose if someone accesses our bank accounts than if someone were to access our health information. Excuse me for being blunt here, but honestly other than for the purposes of being nosy your health record is of little use to the public and definitely a lot less useful than your checking and savings account numbers and PIN. The point being that the banking industry has been a leader in internet security and has for the most part made the population comfortable with online banking, with the admittedly occasional breech in security, there is no reason why the healthcare industry cannot also become a partner in making the internet more secure. In my opinion the patient privacy issue is simply an excuse for the real problem:
Creating a website is hard and expensive. I know this may be hard to believe for some of you that are more ingratiated in technology, but allow me to give some insight from the doctor’s perspective. The road to becoming a MD, as everyone is aware, is arduous. Four years of medical school, 3-10 yrs of additional training depending on the doctor’s desired specialty. Then once the journey of training is over, the six figure pay check is a reality and the young doctor tries to establish their practice in an economic environment they are ill prepared for. Not only does the doctor have the overhead associated with just the basics of starting a practice, there are the student loans which often times are in excess of $150,000 and the financial obligations we all incur once we reach late twenties or early thirties with regards to starting a family. Amongst all of this, the time and expense of creating a website is exorbitant especially if there is no obvious financial benefit.
This is where it becomes the job of leaders in the medical community to embrace rather than resist web technology and seek out simple alternatives so that patients are satisfied without creating further financial obligations for private practice doctors. In creating the idea for SavvyDoc we wanted to get rid of the excuse that it’s too hard and expensive to create, maintain and advertise a website for a single doctor or small group practice. By creating a website that makes it easy to upload picture, video and documents we have created a platform that provides patients with the information and insight into their doctor that they desire, without creating a financial hurdle. For medical professionals, resistance to the internet is futile, its time to embrace technology and provide patients with the type of care they are scouring the web for.